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7 Creative Tricks to Save Your Time and Boost Work Productivity

7 Creative Tricks to Save Your Time and Boost Work Productivity

This is one of the never ending subjects all busy people think about on a daily basis. There are various methods people use to boost their work productivity and many theories as to how one should approach this issue. We always want to achieve more and use the most of our each day.

In spite of all of the information you can find online on this topic, I feel like most of the advice really misses the point. It’s not about having thousands of solutions such as gadgets or habits up your sleeve. Having so many things to think about and organize is really only taking away your time and not helping you make the most out of it.

A lot of people end up being disrupted by their gadgets, apps, and habits because they miss the point. The point is not to adopt as many tricks as you can, but instead to use them properly. If you approach things the right way, they can work in your favor. If not, you will not achieve any results, and you will feel even more stressed than before.

1. Create a list of things you absolutely must do.

Create a short list, either on some phone app or on a piece of paper. This list should include the things that are essential to be done during that day and you should consider it sacred. You should use it as a reminder so that you don’t lose focus of what’s important. Create a couple of columns that shortly outline what must be done, or if you have to, add short specifics that concern that task.

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It should not be more complicated than that. This is your code, and you must stick to it at all times. Never allow something else to get in your way of achieving the goals you’ve set for a certain day. This brings us to the next trick.

2. Don’t allow yourself to get sucked in.

Saying to yourself “I must stay on schedule” is easy, but it’s often a hard thing to achieve, especially if you have an important position and everyone wants a piece of you. I can’t even count the number of days I woke up in the morning thinking that I won’t let anyone disrupt my plans during the day, and realizing after work that what happened was the complete opposite.

3. Use tools and apps.

You have probably created lists or flash cards with your responsibilities at some point, to see if that will motivate you to be more productive. To be honest it can work to some extent, but just like anything else, it can become tedious after some time.

A more interesting way of keeping track and increasing productivity is by using apps and tools. For example, at my workplace, we try different management tools just to keep things neatly organized and more entertaining. We use things like Toggl to collaborate on group projects, to have a smooth workflow and task distribution and to keep track of time. When you complete a project and know just how long it took you to complete it, you treat that time as a high score. Afterwards, you work harder in order to beat the record.

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We have also used Basecamp and Trello, since these apps can also work for group projects. However, it does not mean that you cannot use these tools outside the workplace as well. You can create lists of responsibilities and reminders can pop up on your computer or smartphone. You can even use it as a family, to distribute chores amongst each other. Give it a try; it really works.

4. Create hourly challenges.

This thing does not have an official name, although some people love to say – “get in the zone” but I just call it an hourly challenge. Basically, you challenge yourself to be fully focused and devoted to work for a whole hour. You set an alarm to go off, and once you start, you are not allowed to do anything outside of the task at hand.

Whenever we work, we tend to doze off and we just allow our train of thought to navigate our thinking, but if you are one hundred percent focused on your task for a whole hour, you will see just how much you can accomplish.

It’s important that you take a short break afterwards, before you get into another hourly challenge, because avoiding this can be really mentally exhausting.

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5. Take small breaks.

One thing that can seriously harm your productivity is work overload. You take on additional tasks and go all out on one day, and then you have a hard time mustering enough willpower to continue to work on the following day or for a whole week. It’s important that you do not overburden yourself, and that you take on moderate portions of your workload.

If you combine the hourly challenge with enough small breaks, you can get everything done really fast. Plus, you’ll have the rest of your day to recharge, and you won’t have an impression that you are exhausted, which will allow you to continuously work at the same level of productivity. With small breaks, you won’t get more work done, but you will manage to maintain the same level of healthy productivity, which is rather important.

6. Segment more copious tasks.

If there is one thing that will discourage you, it’s massive projects. When you know that you are going to work for a whole day, but you still won’t be able to complete the entire task, you will only end up feeling bad. So, when this happens, you need to segment the tasks into smaller parts, and view those smaller parts as daily tasks. It will make it easier for you to track your progress, and have a better sense of achievement after each day.

7. Group work.

Lastly, if you are having a hard time focusing, maybe you should try working in groups, provided that these groups consist of people who are eager to get the job done. When you are working in a group, you get that inner pressure of not wanting to hinder anyone, so you stay focused. You do not want to come off as irresponsible, so you force yourself to pay attention and be involved.

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To sum up, people very often face this problem, and it’s perfectly natural to lose enthusiasm. So, in order to solve these problems you need to innovate and try different tactics, you can also switch your tasks and do something a bit different, so that you are not doing the same things each day. It will also be useful to give group work a try or to try to come up with challenges to motivate yourself.

Feel free to use apps and to organize your tasks a bit differently to add more dynamics to your schedule, and you’ll be fine. Additionally, do not hesitate to fully utilize your holidays, and take a good rest, and make a good use of your free days, because if you want to stay productive on a long run you need to be fully rested.

Featured photo credit: https://pixabay.com/en/users/StartupStockPhotos-690514/ via pixabay.com

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Nemanja Manojlovic

Editor at MyCity Web

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Last Updated on December 3, 2020

15 Strategies for an Effective To-Do List

15 Strategies for an Effective To-Do List

One of the age-old productivity techniques around is the classic and effective to do list, and for good reason. It’s one of the most productive ways for you and everyone else to get anything done. Whether it’s a mental list or something that you are writing down, a to do list is an essential productivity tool.

At the same time, it is one of the most confusing productivity tools around. Many people discredit this for various reasons and don’t believe that a to do list is any good. But my argument is that maybe you and other people aren’t making an effective to do list, so here we will go over how to get one done right.

Why Bother With an Effective To-Do List?

You’ve Been Using Them Wrong

Before jumping into strategies to make an effective to do list, it’s worth knowing why you should bother making one. The first important point is that many people have been making to do lists all wrong.

Two of the most common mistakes are:

  • People use lists as a measurement of whether they are productive or not.
  • They put too many items on the list.

It’s understandable why you or other people do this, though. A to do list is a productivity tool, so it makes sense to pile on tasks. However, the brain doesn’t work that way. If you have a lot of tasks on your list, it feels like torture as the list never ends.

At first, it can feel nice that you always have something to do, but keep in mind that you only have so much time in a day. It’s important that you place more value in quality work rather than sheer quantity.

On that same note, if you are someone who has a tendency to seek validation, a to do list can be tough. There will be days where you won’t get everything done due to life events. This creates unnecessary pressure and sends you into a stress whirlwind.

It Helps You Stay Focused

When you build an effective to-do list, the main goal of these lists is to provide clarity and focus. If you’ve been doing them wrong, you may have noticed that you are focusing in on a task on your to do list and getting it done.

This may be overshadowed by the multiple items on your list, but you are focusing on a task during a given time. You really see this in action when you consider having a shorter to do list, though.

I understand that a to do list isn’t for every single person, but this focus is helpful to people when starting out. You’re still not certain about your goals or the path that you want to take. You may also struggle to determine the next step to work towards.

A to do list is a guide you can refer back to it whenever you need it. Furthermore, the techniques that I’ll be mentioning below will make to do lists more effective for you.

15 Strategies for an Effective To Do List

You’ll begin to see how powerful a to do list is when you consider the various strategies you can incorporate in one. This is your to do list, so pick from the strategies below to find what suits you. If you’re not certain, don’t be afraid to experiment and mishmash several combinations.

Remember that the road to success is one with many branching paths, so the methods you use are your choice.

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1. Break the List Into Two Parts

The first strategy is to break a list into two parts. These two parts are called dailies and to do’s.

Dailies are the everyday tasks that you want to develop more. For example, if you want to make a habit out of exercising in the morning, a daily task could be following a 15-minute workout routine or going for an hour-long walk.

Your to do’s are non-daily tasks that you need to be getting done at some point. Maybe you need to prepare a report at work or make a presentation. You can put that into your to do column.

This is an effective strategy because it saves all the clutter that most people gravitate towards. As mentioned before, people stuff their lists, and a lot of it is usually tasks they you would do anyway, like going grocery shopping or dropping the kids off at a friend’s place.

2. Put a Limit on Items

If you find breaking your list into two parts too much, I’ll suggest brevity to be a virtue when making these lists. You can set any number of items, but the key is that you do have a set limit in mind. Some people have no more than seven while others go as low as three. Do what makes you feel comfortable.

The idea behind this is to narrow in on the most important tasks that you need to accomplish that day. Of course, there are other things that you’ll be doing during the day, and that’s fine, but you want to prioritize the items that on your to do list before the day is done.

3. Use Checklists for Complex Tasks

If you’re already making narrow lists but are putting in tougher tasks, my suggestion is to break that task down. Whether it’s full-on steps you need to take or jotting down important details that need to be present is up to you.

Either way, this allows you to ensure that you’re getting everything done the proper way and that you’re not missing any key details or steps.

4. Tackle MITs First

MIT is the “most important task.” Another way to look at this is to tackle the largest and most intimidating task first[1]. Why you want to do this goes back to how our brain works.

You may feel compelled to do the easier tasks first before getting to the bigger task, but the problem is that these tasks—even the easy ones—drain your energy. Furthermore, if you have a really big task to complete, chances are that’s going to be on your mind over the course of the day. That means you’re spending more energy just thinking about it.

All of that wouldn’t be a problem if that big intimidating task was dealt with first thing in the morning.

5. Create a “Done” List

Another interesting approach to consider is to have a “done” list. This is a list of the tasks that you’ve completed from your to do list. Many people find it satisfying to merely cross an item off their list and be done with it, but depending on what you’re putting on those lists, a done list could be inspiring.

Imagine if you are someone who places above-average difficult tasks on your to do lists, activities that require an hour or two to complete properly. This can inspire you to do more if, after a day of working, you notice just how much you accomplished over the course of the day via this list.

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6. Make Your List Easy to Spot

From colorful paper to posting it in an obvious spot, you want your list to be in a place where you can spot it easily. Mind you, you don’t need to have this list in front of you all the time as it could create unnecessary stress. But setting it to one side is a nice idea—a glance to the side and you know exactly what needs to get done.

7. Add Gaming Elements to It

If pen and paper isn’t your thing when making to do lists, there are several apps that can guide you along as well. The beauty of to do list apps is that there is more room for creativity, and some of the developers incorporate games into them.

For example, Todoist has an achievement system where individuals earn badges as they complete more tasks. There’s also Bounty Tasker, which makes you feel like your tasks are side quests in a video game.

8. Give Yourself Deadlines

Work expands to fill time allotted.

It’s an old philosophy that still rings true with how we are productive. For example, say you’re assigned to write a report, and you’re given a week to do it. You’ll likely work on it steadily throughout the week. Or if you’re a procrastinator, you’ll put it off until the night before and finish it.

But what if you’re given that same task and only allotted an hour to complete it? You’ll likely get the report done, but you’ll prioritize the main, important points and highlight those rather than fill it with unnecessary fluff.

The whole point of this is that with your goals and the items on your to do list, you want to have deadlines. When it comes to to do lists, my suggestion is to give yourself a day to complete the tasks there. This is enough pressure and incentive for you to work hard on them.

9. Add Tasks When They’re Fresh

Another strategy is to assign yourself tasks even when you are working on something else. Keep in mind it’s not something you have to do right now, but this can help with people who are struggling to think about what to focus on next.

This is along the same lines as when you hear something interesting and you write it down. It’s a wise thing to do as it saves you the bother of having to dwell on that idea rather than focusing on the task at hand. It also saves you from having to recall what the task is if you’re the type to write up the next day’s to do list at the end of the day.

10. Be Comfortable With Revising Your To-Do List

Depending on your overall mindset, another good strategy is to look at your to do list and make changes to it. If you’re practicing the previous strategy, there may be a possibility that your to do list is getting lengthy and you’re setting unrealistic expectations that you can finish it all.

By giving yourself the opportunity to revise your to do list, your allowing yourself to spread out your tasks rather than have them clumped up. This helps your mindset as you’re not overwhelmed by the list.

11. Write Tasks, Not Goals

You should have separate lists for your tasks and your goals. The idea is to not put goals on your task list at all.

While tasks can help you lead to your goals, goals are larger desires and not something that you can achieve over the course of the day. For example, “learn to speak French” is a goal; however, you can break that into a task by saying “read French content for 15 minutes” or “watch a movie in French.”

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This also extends to objectives, too. You can see these as milestones. Going back to the example of speaking French, an objective can be, “discuss my favorite foods with someone in French.” It’s the desired outcome that you’re looking for from your practice.

12. Keep To Do Lists Brief

Here, brief means scannable in that you can quickly look over at the list and know what needs to get done. How you can do this is by focusing on the keywords of specific tasks and not dragging them out. For example, say your garage is a mess and you want to clean it up. Instead of writing a lengthy sentence, keep it short and write something like “clean garage for 30 min.” or simply “clean garage.”

With this strategy, you’re spending less time writing the task down when making the to do list. Furthermore, you’re relying on trigger words to get your mind to recall specific details for that task.

13. Have Multiple Lists

As mentioned above, it’s a good idea to have separate lists for various things, like having a separate list for goals, objectives, daily tasks, and to do’s. Another way you can look at it is to have a system where you are consulting from three lists.

These lists are:

A Master List

This is where any of your long-term goals are, things like moving to a new house, getting out of debt, or building a business. These are things that will take a year or more to accomplish.

A Weekly Project List

These are things that you want to accomplish by the end of the week. These are things that will move the needle slowly towards some of the items on your master list. From the previous example, these could be doing research on getting a business loan, house hunting, or setting up a savings account.

A High-Impact List

Lastly, these are tasks that need to be accomplished today. Whether they are related to the previous two lists or not doesn’t matter. This is where high priority tasks are placed. Examples can be calling specific people or working on a project or a report that’s due soon.

By having these lists in place, you’ll be referring often to the weekly project list and the high-impact list and determining whether a weekly task should be moved to that list.

As you do that, you’ll begin to notice how much your daily life has an impact on those goals that are written on that master list. That can be inspiring since what you are doing is actively bringing you closer to your goals.

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14. Don’t Ramp up Difficulty Until You’re Ready

Some of the strategies mentioned can seem easy on the surface, but they require a lot of mental fortitude. Motivation is an unusual thing, and our brains are wired to process a certain way. If you’re looking for genuine change and something that sticks, the best principle is to keep things simple and easy at first.

It may be a drag, but you don’t often realize how those baby steps can play a crucial role in you being able to start running and chasing your dreams. Don’t be ashamed if you have to start off with simple tasks for yourself. Even going back to daily tasks that you do anyway like showering, doing the laundry or shopping for food is a good way to start.

Putting those items on the list at first makes you feel like you’ve had a productive day. From there, you can challenge yourself with more difficult tasks. Incorporate an exercise routine or spend a half-hour on a task that means something to you.

The idea is to ease yourself into a routine so you don’t feel overwhelmed.

15. Measure Your Time

The last strategy that can help you is to measure your time. How long does it take you to finish a specific task? You don’t need to go for specifics, but make a point of timing yourself over the course of a week and get the average time spent on that task.

Why is this important? This information can be broken down in two ways.

The first way is to use it as a marker to boost efficiency. Depending on the task, you can find new ways to achieve the same results in a shorter time.

It also allows you to know what you can do in a given day. If you know that it takes you an hour or so to go through your entire morning routine, you’ll be more conscious about how you move through that routine.

Furthermore, if you know what tasks you’ll be doing the next day, you can better manage your time since you know roughly how much time it’ll take to get everything done.

Final Thoughts

Building an effective to do list is not as easy as it seems. There are all kinds of unique strategies to try out, some more challenging that others. However, if you are motivated to use this productivity tool to make your life easier, then it will get easier. All that you need to do is keep putting effort and experiment and reevaluate when necessary. So get started with your to do lists today.

More Tips on Using an Effective To Do List

Featured photo credit: Emma Matthews Digital Content Production via unsplash.com

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